El Chapo: US prosecutors seek $14bn seizure from drug lord

El Chapo: US prosecutors seek $14bn seizure from drug lord

(BBC)  The head of the Sinaloa cartel was extradited from Mexico on Thursday.

US prosecutors want an order to seize $14bn (£11.3bn) of his assets.

In 2015, Mr Guzman famously escaped from a high-security prison through a tunnel – while being recorded on CCTV. He had fought against extradition since his recapture in early 2016.

Federal authorities have sought Mr Guzman for more than 20 years. He faces 17 charges including drug trafficking, illegal firearms use, money laundering, and smuggling cash across the border.

Ahead of his first appearance in a New York court, prosecutors revealed that they would seek the civil forfeiture of Mr Guzman’s assets to the amount of $14bn – an indication of the extent of his empire.

“He’s a man known for no other life than a life of crime, violence, death and destruction. And now he’ll have to answer to that. That’s who Chapo Guzman is,” said US attorney Robert Capers.

US attorney Robert Capers, centre, pictured at a press conference on Friday 20 JanuaryImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionProsecutor Robert Capers: ‘Guzman’s rise was like a “cancerous tumour”

If convicted, Mr Guzman faces a mandatory life sentence.

Mr Capers also revealed that prosecutors were not aware the extradition was happening in advance.

“Guzman’s story is not one of a do-gooder or a Robin Hood or even one of a famous escape artist who miraculously escaped from Mexican prisons on multiple occasions,” he said.

“Guzman’s destructive and murderous rise as an international narcotics trafficker is akin to that of a small cancerous tumour that metastasized and grew into a full blown scourge.”

His ability to evade capture made Mr Guzman stand out from other drug gang leaders.

Media captionCCTV footage showed the moment Guzman escaped from prison through a tunnel in 2015

His first high profile escape was in 2001 when it was reported – despite some doubts – that he had escaped from a maximum security prison by hiding in a laundry basket.

He was recaptured thirteen years later. But in 2015, he walked out of his cell through a cleanly-dug tunnel, while under video surveillance.

Mexican soldiers on guard at Ciudad Juarez airport, where El Chapo Guzman's plane took offImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThere was a heavy military presence at Ciudad Juarez airport, where Guzman took off on Thursday

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto had initially resisted extraditing the cartel leader to the US, insisting that he should face justice at home.

But after Mr Guzman was recaptured in January 2016, Pena Nieto changed his mind on extradition and ordered officials to speed up the process.

He was extradited suddenly on Thursday, arriving in New York on a flight from Ciudad Juarez.

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